It's going on almost 19 years since we moved here, almost as many since I took those first tentative steps into the strange waters of something called the Internet. The Buffalo News ran a several-day series about That New Thing out there, that it must've thought was the latest craze that their monopoly would outlive, as it had done local, network and even cable news. The articles focused on a free local service called, fittingly, the Buffalo Free-Net. It was run out of UB's computer services department, and offered some primordial-soupy versions of email, newsgroups, organizational "pages," and even a limited amount of ability to surf this thing that was just beginning to be called the "Web," through a text-only browser called Lynx.
Like a horta to a phaser flame, I was attracted to the Star Trek area of the groups, and made many friends, at least one of who remains. That group also led me to my first fanfic connections, and through Lynx (and its "search engines" of Yahoo and Alta Vista), I began to learn how to get information.
Email came through an add-on called PINE, from the University of Washington. It was slow and creaky, but it got the job done. Over time, the Freenet lost most of its unique utility to the community, as incoming students got their own pre-wired buffalo.edu accounts and AOL, MSN and other dialup options were out there. Eventually, UB tossed the whole thing out of their domain, and my longtime email address changed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Dialup service ended sometime around Y2K, but you could still access webpages and your renamed email through broadband or other non-phone connections. While the pages all seemed to go dead around 2007, eventually, a local company took over hosting of the email accounts. They gave you limited storage and a funky interface, but it was always a good address to give businesses who I didn't want spamming my Gmail or business accounts.
I don't know why I bothered masking my freenet addy up there, since by Saturday it won't exist anymore.
The message came through last Wednesday, although, this being such a redundant account for me, I didn't see it until last night:Dear bfn.org Email User,
The time has come for the webmail provided by the Buffalo Free-Net to end. For many years Synacor has generously provided free webmail to Buffalo Free-Net account holders. However, they must discontinue the service because of software incompatibilities.
On March 1, 2013 all email sent to any bfn.org address will be returned as not deliverable.
We recommend that you obtain an email account with Gmail (http://mail.google.com/), Microsoft (http://mail.live.com), Yahoo! (http://mail.yahoo.com/), or one of the other free webmail account providers.
It goes on to describe how to use POP/POP3 connections to import your existing backlogs of mail into the "new" account, but there's every expectation that anything sent to them after
this Thursday will not forward to that address, not identify that address, or do anything to the sender other than go BOING.
I will likely go with the Yahoo option, because Microsoft seems too in-transition with its email at this point and I can't risk the Wrath of Goo if they find out I have two different email accounts with them. So, if you have an age-old (or even just-last-year) bfn.org email address for me, I will try to snag the same short name at the Y.
Erm, no. But you can do bk853bfn before the at and you'll get me.
Now to remember the 900 businesses I gave that stupid address to:P